The US stands to be the biggest beneficiary as Europe faces the first of “many miserable winters”, according to Texas-based energy tycoon Charif Souki, who said the continent’s energy crisis would allow American producers to export gas at a “significant premium”.
With Russia choking off gas supplies in response to European support for Ukraine, surging prices threaten to plunge the region into deep recession.
The EU is planning to recommend member states cap the price of electricity generated from non-gas sources, which is tied to the high price of gas.
But Souki, co-founder and chief executive of natural gas group Tellurian, railed against calls from several European countries, including Italy, for a cap on gas prices.
“A price cap on gas makes no sense,” he told the Financial Times. “If you impose it but China, for example, offers more, then gas will go somewhere else.”
Souki, also the founder and former boss of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter Cheniere, derided Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, saying the continent had only its own “lack of strategic thinking” to blame for the crisis and warned there was no easy short-term solution.
But he said the crisis would benefit the US gas industry. “We are sitting on huge resources, they are not very expensive to produce, we are good at building infrastructure,” he said. “We are going to be able to develop American gas very affordably and sell it a significant premium.”
Tellurian is looking to build a $16.8bn export plant in Louisiana to ship LNG overseas, part of a new phase for the six-year-old company that follows a period of heavy restructuring.
Souki said Europe had been able to secure sufficient gas, including for storage, because it paid a higher price than other countries.
“[US president Joe] Biden promised to deliver American LNG to Europe, but it’s not thanks to his promises that it will reach these shores . . . it’s because Europe is capable of paying more than Asian countries and unlike Asia it has storage facilities,” said Souki.
“Today every molecule that can be produced is being sold and it’s being sold to who is willing to pay a higher price, which is why we are seeing this price volatility,” he said.
The Egyptian-born chief executive said European countries should seek to “secure a little bit of everything, whether it’s renewables, nuclear, coal or gas”.
Some countries, such as Germany, have boosted coal’s share of their energy mix since the drop in Russian gas flows, a move climate experts fear could undermine the EU’s net zero emissions targets.
“The damage of coal is so clear but now, all of a sudden, it’s no longer a matter of pollution,” Souki said. “Countries are faced with the prospects of starving their citizens [as gas is needed to produce fertiliser] or not heating their homes, so the environmental impact becomes the lesser evil.”
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